The Pre-Preseason: Sleep—the underrated secret to success

By Kyrsten Retherford, CSCS, USAW | Posted 6/30/2017

When we think about the components that play into athletic performance and recovery, we often think of things like nutrition, hydration, strength & conditioning, stretching, ice baths, foam rolling, etc.  Unfortunately, most of us don’t automatically include sleep to the list.  You may have heard about the impact of sleep on performance, but sleep is an important component to athletic success that is often overlooked.  Of course we’ve heard that we should get good sleep, but why should it be high on the priority list? 

A study by Eaton and colleagues (2010) reviewed over 14,000 adolescent responses to healthcare questionnaires and discovered that 70% of adolescents reported less than or equal to 7 hours of sleep per night, 23.5% reported 8 hours of sleep, and only 7.6% reported “optimal sleep” of 9 hours or greater per night.  Not only did the researchers discover that teens weren’t getting enough sleep, but research findings showed a commonality of 72% between less sleep and injury incidence.  Their reports supported the view that the less sleep you get, the more prone to injury you are.

In addition to a possible increase in injury susceptibility, lack of sleep can interfere with immune system function and slow reaction time and recovery.  It can also impair critical decision making, exercise performance capacity, motor learning, skill acquisition, cognition and memory, growth hormone release, muscle protein synthesis, etc.  As your eyes glaze over from these technical terms, just remember that all of these things affected by sleep are incredibly important in making or breaking your athletic success.

In short, you need good sleep to be able to train, adapt and recover efficiently.  You cannot expect to be powerful, strong, alert, reactive and accurate during play unless you prioritize your body’s needs.  If you’re serious about improving your performance and recovery strategies, you need to get serious about sleep.

What can you do?

  • Get 7-9 hours of QUALITY sleep per night (recommended minimum from the American National Sleep Foundation)Get into a good sleep habit, with consistent sleep and wake times
  • Consider taking a nap to catch up after a night of poor sleep
  • Avoid using your cellphone, tablet, TV, or laptop at least an hour before bed.  If that’s out of the question, consider using an app that filters the blue wavelength (which can suppress the hormone melatonin and negatively affect sleep.
  • If you have trouble relaxing, consider deep breathing or meditation
  • Minimize caffeine consumption after lunchSleep in a cool, dark room

To learn more, visit St. Vincent Sports Performance